Sublime with Rome - Yours Truly (Cover Artwork)

Sublime with Rome

Yours Truly (2011)

Fueled by Ramen

Can't we forget the comparisons to Brad Nowell's Sublime and judge this record on its own merits?

Hell no we can't.

Not after the surviving members underwent a months-long legal battle to retain the right to use that polarizing word. They wanted the name, and, to some degree, they got it. Now they get the baggage that comes with it.

Yours Truly isn't a bad record, but it is a witless and anxiety-riddled appeal to the mainstream. The lead single, "Panic" is the edgiest song on the album. This is problematic because it is a careful rehash of a number of Sublime's punkier songs from 15 years ago. With "Panic", the group announces their agenda to Live in the Past instead of build on it, and this theme is prevalent throughout. Rome Ramirez's clunky lyric "My head's up in the clouds / And I like it that way and there's no coming down" in the structurally unimaginative, psuedo-punk "My World" is uneasily reminiscent of the Nowell lyric "The real world always gets the last word / That's why you gotta kick reality" from the progressive, actual-punk "New Thrash" from nearly two decades prior. This sort of nostalgic throwup (pun intended) pervades Yours Truly. Ramirez strains so desperately to be like Nowell that one gets the impression he would have ate Nowell's brains if doing so would let the former write like the latter. Ironically, the only part of Ramirez not straining in imitation is his silky voice–the one thing that he should be straining when he croons instead of shouts the silly lyrics above.

Ramirez doesn't do much better when he looks to reggae standards for inspiration, singing "She's a murdera" with dreadful emphasis on the clichéd slang spelling (once again advertising his artistic insecurity). When he steps out completely on his own, the contextual awkwardness can be astounding, as in "Take It or Leave It", where he can't seem to figure out if he's singing to his girlfriend or about her. But that's not to say that there isn't some catchy music here. It's all within the okay-to-good range, and one gets the impression that Rome and his production crew are the responsible parties. Less responsible, it seems, is "Sublime", who seem not to make much of an impact except a couple of bars from the Long Beach Dub Allstars song "Rosarita" thrown into "PCH". That's not much of an achievement.

Now, for a moment, imagine if the band had decided to build their own foundation, and this album was the result. They would have had a pleasant if somewhat dull pop album, and that's nothing to sneeze at. Sure, the record is filled with nice, polished touches indicative of big budgets and professional producers–luxuries the new group undoubtedly wouldn't yet have had access to without a little exploitation of the dead, but sugary tracks like "You Better Listen" and "PCH" very well could have set the new act towards pop success on their own merits. It might have taken more time that way, but if that time would have allowed Ramirez to find his own creative voice, then it would have been worth the wait for both band and listener. As it is, Ramirez will likely find himself stunted by this experience, continuing to slaver to sound like someone he isn't. If he does eventually trod his own creative path (or if Sublime with Rome hits big on the radio), he will likely shed the incestuous Sublime baggage anyways, as he would no longer need its protective shell.

They haven't earned their publicity this go-round, so if you spend your hard-earned money on this, you're getting it the "wrong way."